SOME time ago, the interior minister warned that the Federal Investigation Agency would be disbanded if its officials were found incapable or unwilling to combat corruption and net big fish. He also gave directions to the DG FIA to take legal action against corrupt employees working on deputation who were brought to the agency through political connections and against professional requirements during the last few years.
I applaud his decision and hope he can implement it, given the all-pervasive culture of political patronage in society.
While in the eighth month of my job as FIA chief in 2009, I had got used to many surprises and unilateral actions by the interior ministry, under the command of someone who had a knack for pleasing his bosses. On Aug 1, 2009, the services of a certain Mr X (an individual whose name is being withheld for professional reasons), a surplus officer awaiting posting in the services and general administration department of a certain provincial government, were requisitioned by the interior ministry for the FIA without informing its command.
I had constituted a committee of senior officers in the FIA to judge the suitability of any official whose services were proposed to be placed at the disposal of the agency on deputation. In order to depoliticise the agency, I was determined that it should not be misused by politicians to bring in their favourite officials and to make sure that personal agendas were not followed and that the anti-corruption agency was not used by corrupt officials and their patrons to fill their coffers.
One hopes the present FIA command will withstand interference in their lawful duties by the government.
The notification placing the services of the officer at the disposal of the FIA was issued on Aug 12. I protested to the interior secretary on Aug 13: “I am surprised to see the notification and requisition letter sent from the Ministry of Interior to the Government of ….. Director General FIA was not even consulted. [Mr X] will remember forever that only men of integrity are welcome in this agency.”
Lo and behold, I was summoned to the interior ministry and informed that Mr X was close to a VIP who wanted the official to serve in the FIA. I asked how a man from a provincial department with no investigative experience could serve as a supervisory officer dealing with organised crime. The meeting in the ministry was followed by a phone call from the secretary to the VIP who candidly told me that the officer was being sent to serve the interests of the ‘boss’.
After making him go through orientation and exposure to FIA rules and regulations for about a month, he was posted to a staff job away from the district of his domicile and directly under the command of the zonal director who was asked to keep the officer under close watch. Soon it was clear he had joined the FIA to get some important field assignment where he could use his clout for nefarious designs. He did not join his assignment and instead I got a call from the secretary of the VIP that the officer may be given personal hearing.
I was left with no choice but to call the officer and censure him for his misconduct in violating the chain of command. I told him that this kind of indiscipline was unacceptable. He should first prove his professionalism by working in a staff assignment. He informed me he did not want the posting I had proposed for him. I was taken aback. I shook his hand and told him there was no place for him in the FIA as long as I was in command.
On Nov 10, I was constrained to address a letter to the interior secretary as follows: “The officer has refused to comply with the orders of the Director General. It is requested that he may be repatriated to the provincial government as such an ill-disciplined and arrogant officer has no place in the FIA.”
As expected, I got a call from the secretary to the VIP. He wanted to know why I could not accommodate someone who has the ears of the boss. My explanation was that Mr X was sent on deputation by the interior ministry but further posting within the agency was a decision of the FIA command in which there should be no interference. To my surprise and disappointment, the officer had disobeyed orders to report to the assigned job. I politely stressed that the VIP would understand the stance of the head of the federal police.
Late at night, on Dec 6, 2009, the principal secretary to the prime minister rang me up to inform me that I had been transferred from the FIA and was asked to report as secretary of the narcotics control division immediately.
I drove from Lahore early the next day and reached the FIA office to relinquish charge. As I sat to sign my departure papers, I got a text message on my mobile phone: “Good morning. [Mr X].”
I smiled. It was indeed a very good morning when God, in His own way, had relieved me of a burden that I was carrying by constantly refusing to accept political and extraneous influences in the administration and operations of the agency. I relaxed, sat back in my chair and dictated the following farewell message for the FIA employees:
“We set for the FIA the mission to fight organised crime and win. Our core values are integrity, trust, professionalism, and fairness. I am grateful to each member of this agency to have given me full support in trying to accomplish the mission. I am leaving with a hope that with the restored independent judiciary, the FIA too will be an operationally autonomous and a highly accountable organisation and will not allow itself to be misused by any segment of the state. I wish all of you Godspeed.”
I hope that the present command of the FIA will withstand pressures and interference in their lawful duties from the government of the day, including the highly volatile minister in charge.
The writer is former DG, FIA.
Published in Dawn, May 19th, 2015